Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
I Corinthians 16:13-14
Today we will focus on being faithful in relationships with others. The first one I’ll mention is the relationship one has with a spouse. When people come to confession, they often will review a sheet entitled, “The Ten Commandments in Preparation for Confession.” It lists the Ten Commandments and gives examples of each so that one can examine which ones he or she may have broken. Under the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” it says “have I been faithful to my spouse?” Most people will read that question as “have I cheated on my spouse?,” and thankfully, most will still say “no, I have not cheated on my spouse,” in the sense of having an affair with someone else. However, the question is not, “have you cheated” but “have you stayed faithful” to your spouse? And on closer review, this is something that actually just about every married couple struggles with – staying faithful, staying checked in, staying engaged with your spouse at all times. For people who have very demanding jobs, or who travel, or who are addicted to work, it’s a challenge to stay faithful. And the challenge to stay “faithful” includes not only spousal relationships but extends to our relationships with our children, our parents and our close friends.
Many of us, like me, live far away from parents. Do we remain faithful to the relationship from a distance? When a parent is in trouble (i.e. has a medical issue, especially when they are older), do we tend to them more (whether they live in our town or across the country)?
Same thing with children – are we faithful to our children? At summer camp recently, I asked a group of teenagers who are the most discouraging voices in their lives and I was surprised and somewhat saddened to hear the answer from some of them is their parents. I’m only a couple of years away from having a teenager – will that be his answer? Why would a group of teenagers feel that their greatest critic is their parents? Perhaps they are lazy and deserve some criticism. But if there is no advocacy from their parents, where exactly are they supposed to go for foundational encouragement?
I read somewhere that friends are friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime. No, not all friends are going to be lifetime friends. Along the way we will pick up some and some we will let go, sometimes due to falling out of friendship, sometimes because of moving away, etc. But a good life, in my opinion, needs to have a few friends who go the distance with you. I can think of three good friends who have been good friends for over a decade. And these friends are people I check in with often, not because I have to, but because I want to. These friendships are cultivated and worked at. That is why they continue to grow and are solid. We are faithful to them.
To build authentic relationships with other people – spouses, children, parents and friends – it takes work. I’ve described relationships like a garden. First you have to be faithful in keeping the weeds out. Second you have to be faithful in nurturing the garden with good soil, fertilizer, water and sunlight. Faithfully giving these things to the garden will make the garden healthy and robust. Failure to stay faithful to these will make the garden weak and eventually will kill it.
The things that nurture relationships include time, honesty, safety, respect, trust, patience and forgiveness. Without these, relationships cannot flourish. So keep your relationships healthy by showing respect at all times, giving them time, creating an environment where it is safe to be honest, be patient when others don’t match your expectations, forgive easily when things go wrong, and in doing these things, you’ll build trust, which leads to love, which is the first of the Fruit of the Spirit. The things that nurture relationships apply to marriage, parents, children and good friends, so practice these tips in all of your relationships, so that you can stay faithful in all of them.
Lord, thank You for the relationships I have with other people. (Mention the people who are most important to you, your spouse, parents, children, friends). Help me to be faithful in my relationships today. Help me and my (spouse, parent, child, friend) to nourish an environment that promotes respect, honesty, and safety. Help us to be patient with one another when we disappoint each other. Help us to forgive easily. Help us to build trust, so that we can grow love, and in love may we honor You, our God who loves all. Amen.
Be faithful (checked in) in your relationships today!